So this entire time, you think some guy has been stealing precious artifacts from museums across Japan. In fact, you have eyewitnesses claiming that he’s the perpetrator. One day, however, the primary suspect shows up in front of you and hands over an unconscious, cleavage-bearing girl. He then claims that she is the suspect. And with that, he disappears into the night. What exactly would you think? How exactly would you react? Had it been me, I’d still try to apprehend the guy to ask him some questions. As a result, I find this scene kind of silly. Oh, you tell me she is the culprit? Well, why didn’t you say so earlier! Here, we’ll just throw her in jail and you can go on your merry, little way. What’s even funnier is that the Black Fist can apparently go invisible, and this is how she has managed to pull off her heists so successfully. So really, there’s little evidence that points to her being the true culprit. Nevertheless, this is how our episode ends. But gosh, I’m getting ahead of myself. I should really talk about how our characters even got here in the first place.
As you’ll recall, the first episode featured a bloody takeover of the country as renegade espers took the Diet and its politicians hostage. Even more renegade espers proceeded to kill innocent civilians just… just because, I guess. It’s one of those “jump right into the middle of a story” moments. As a result, we don’t really understand the bad guys’ motivations. Worst of all, that bloody takeover will have no resolution for… gosh, I dunno… potentially the rest of the season, if you think about it. In this week’s episode, the story pulls it all the way back to the very beginning of the story. Remember the white-haired shoujo that everyone was clamoring for in the first episode? Well, we’re now just getting her origin story. I find it interesting, though, that in a lot of Western superhero narratives, the superhero’s origin story is unique; it sets him or her apart from everyone else. In Tokyo ESP, Rinka’s origin story is, however, nothing special. Of course, it’s special in that she saw some fucking glowing fish, and they gave her powers. In that particular regard, it’s pretty special. But it’s not special in another crucial way.
The thing is, everyone gets their superpowers in much the same way. Even Rinka’s dad gets special powers from the glowing fishes. And others will awaken to their powers in this way too since the school of supernatural fishes are still out there, floating around the city. So it’s not so much an origin story for Rinka, but an origin story for a small group of people in Japan — people who were or still are lucky enough to encounter the school of glowing fishes. No matter what superhero story you’re taking in, however, there’s that familiar lesson to learn: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Wait a minute, that’s Uncle Ben from Spiderman! No, no, I mean the other quote about responsibility: “Gaining power means gaining that much more responsibility.” Hm, Kyotaro’s version does not sound quite as poetic, but I guess Uncle Ben always had a way with words. It’s actually kind of funny, actually, how often you hear this line. It’s funnier when they try to say it in a roundabout manner so as to not seem too familiar: “You are a lot like your father. … He believed that if you could do good things for other people, you had a moral obligation to do those things! That’s what’s at stake here. Not choice. Responsibility.” Give it up, you guys, for, well, Uncle Ben again, but this time, the quote is from The Amazing Spiderman.
Anyway, it’s a pretty fast-paced and eventful episode. The girl gets her powers, then she immediately calls her dad for help. But her dad has special powers too — a fact that he’s blissfully unaware of — and he goes berserk with them. He doesn’t realize he’s become a giant wrecking ball because he’s just too busy looking for his girl. As a result, Rinka has to use her special powers to knock him out. Normally, that would be the resolution for most episodes, but wait, there’s more! After all, this story isn’t just about Rinka. It’s about Kyotaro too. It’s a bit weird how he keeps following our heroine. Yes, I know he has the magical ability of teleportation. As a result, it’s always convenient how he keeps showing up. But still, he keeps checking up on her. And since he’s still a stranger to her, it’s just a bit weird. Nevertheless, the second half of the episode fleshes his role out a bit more. At the moment, Rinka’s out of her element, so she needs someone to guide her for the time being. Therefore, we get this heist sub-plot where we get a glimpse of Kyotaro’s character: “I am Crow Head, a hero of justice in this age!”
In a lot of ways, the second episode isn’t all that different from the first episode. Granted, there’s a bit more focus this time around. After all, the story finally centers itself on a pair of important characters rather than jumping to and fro, introducing a whole mess of people — so many that I can’t possibly recall after the fact. So there’s that improvement. Both episodes, however, move fairly briskly through the story, never taking the time to pause and and really take stock. For instance, Rinka hears about the Black Fist once, and she immediately sets out later that night to apprehend the jewel thief just because the criminal might be Kyotaro. I mean, I get why she does it: “If Azuma-san is the culprit, I have to catch him first. It’d be bad if he spoke about Dad and me to the police!” I just find it somewhat hard to believe that someone who had been a normal schoolgirl up until this point would suddenly put herself in so much danger in just a 24-hour time span. Like what is her mindset even like? The story moves so fast, she doesn’t even get the chance to sit down and think.
In any case, Tokyo ESP doesn’t feel like a story that will really explore these characters’ mindsets if the first two episodes are anything to go by. Rather, it’s more evocative of a traditional tale about superheroes. There will be some pulpy action, and that will keep things from getting too boring, but the story probably won’t be all that special. I get the feeling that I just won’t have a strong connection to any of the characters.